Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

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21 Nov 11

Holiday Kitty Care tips! ...

By Robyn Elman of In Home Pet Services, Inc.

As much as the U.S. population reveres their pet dogs as true members of their family, cats are equally beloved by their owners – and just as particular about their care.

Cats are generally believed to be a more low-maintenance pet than a dog. They don’t need to be regularly walked on a leash, and you can leave them for a day with a bowl of food and water. That low-maintenance perception leads people to “collect” these pets, rescuing them from the outdoors or from shelters. It’s estimated that greater than 20% of cats owned in the U.S. are acquired as strays. This may be why we rarely hear a person described as a “dog lady,” yet “cat lady” seems to be a commonplace term. Once you have owned a cat, you will know that they present their own set of challenges and behaviors, and to care for them may mean almost the same amount of dedication and work as that of a fellow dog owner.

I have come to find that pet sitters are more likely to be afraid of a cat than a dog. Cats have 5 ways they can hurt you. A mouth that can bite and 4 paws with claws that scratch! Their behaviors are also often more difficult to read. While it’s unlikely that a dog will turn around and attack you while it’s sitting on your lap being brushed, it is a more commonplace event with cats. Cats also have a more sensitive metabolic system and when ill, they can go downhill much more quickly than a dog.

If you are a pet sitter, or thinking about going into the business, you are bound to have cat only households as clients. It’s important you learn about cat specific behaviors and especially signs of illness. These include changes in behavior, eating, litter box habits, and the amount of water they are drinking. Take a Pet first Aid & CPR class so you will prepared in an emergency situation such as poisoning, choking, bleeding, etc. Most importantly, make sure your client tells you as much specific information about their cats as possible, including places he or she does or doesn’t like to be touched, favorite toys, specific feeding schedules, litter habits, and especially hiding places! It’s important to be able to see the cats in your care and knowing their favorite hideouts can save you a lot of time. I have cared for cats that hide on bookshelves, on top of refrigerators (and like to pounce on you from above!), behind washing machines, and in boxes in closets. Be extra careful when entering and leaving the home as some cats are sneaky and try to escape outside. As a person in the pet sitting business for almost 10 years, I have seen a lot – especially with cats. We have cat only clients that want everything from overnight stays with their cats, to twice a day visits, to a visit only every other day. It’s not uncommon for an owner to accidentally close a pet cat in a closet before leaving for a trip, and that’s why I recommend at least one visit every day for a pet cat.

If you are a cat owner and are thinking about hiring a sitter, find one that you can afford to come at least one time a day. Although cats are more self sufficient than dogs (in most cases), they still need to be looked in on once a day to make sure they haven’t gotten themselves into trouble, and to make sure they are eating, drinking, and using their litter box normally. It’s important you provide your sitter with plenty of food and extra litter while you are gone. If you run out and the sitter is forced to get a different kind of litter, for example, the cat may not want to use the box and go somewhere else – like your bed! As mentioned above, it’s important you tell your sitter details about your cats hiding places. This is especially vital should you need the sitter to administer any medications. Be realistic about this. Boarding at the vet might be your best option if medications are essential and you have a difficult cat.

The Holidays can be stressful for your cat, as their normal daily routine can easily be interrupted by our crazy schedules. When you have guests over you may want to consider confining your cat to a room or section of the house away from the noise and people. With the people coming in and out, a cat can easily run out the door unnoticed. Make it clear to guests not to feed your cat from the table. Turkey skin and other fatty foods can cause pancreas problems, onions can cause liver failure, and grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure. Of course we all know to keep chocolate away from our cats, but also keep any sugarless items away as well. Cats cannot process the chemicals such as xylitol, and their blood sugar can rapidly crash. The Christmas tree also poses another danger. It’s easy to climb on, which makes it easy to topple over, and the water at the base of the tree can be toxic. Consider use of a repellent or “Scat Mat” to keep your cat safely away from the tree. Alternatively you can set up a ‘cat room’ just for your cat during the holidays complete with bed, scratching post or tree, litter box, fresh water and food – and a latch at the top of the door so kids can’t get into the room while you’re celebrating over the holiday season. Cats will adapt to the room and you won’t have to worry about the cat getting out, or jumping on the Christmas tree!